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Finally, reprieve. End of season summary.

Uncontrolled shooting & the prospect of decentralisation.

Families living around tens of thousands of waterways can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The three month shooting of our native waterbirds dawn to dusk is over, for now.

It was a surprise the season went ahead at all. Only months prior, Ministers had committed to animal welfare and regional development.

There’s no doubt about the inhumane suffering of our native waterbirds caused by shotgun pellet spray (one reason other states have banned the activity). The claimed economic benefit from duck shooting to regions (refuted by independent economists including The Australian Institute) pales to insignificance against the known social and economic benefits of nature based tourism prevented by duck shooting.

The uncontrollable nature of duck shooting is well documented. Shocking cases have been reported at Box Flat 2013, Toolondo 2016 and even in the presence of authorities at Kerang 2017. Moreso, amplified by the recent damming Pegasus report of widespread cruelty and non compliance. GMA seems to lack the capacity or will to address these issues, despite being backed with millions in taxpayer funds.

Despite this the 2018 season went ahead, with bird numbers low by an order of magnitude, negative impacts to rural communities and advice to halt the season by independent experts in animal welfare, birdlife and ecoscience.

This year's compliance issues included evidence of whole birds discarded by waterways, dumped at bus stops, possession of leadshot, shooting at a wetland closed to shooting, campfires lit on total fireban days, campers camped illegally and 'flushing' of birds with boats to make for easier shooting. These reported activities are likely to be the tip of the iceberg as the vast majority of waterways where shooting takes place, are not monitored.

Disrespect for laws and residents shown by shooters each season strikes alarm in rural communities. Residents live in fear of a wayward campfire or an accident with a gun in a public place with possible catastrophic consequences.

GMA's phone lines are not answered on weekends and police – if available to attend - do so after the fact. It appears offenders can only be caught if the public put themselves in harm’s way to collect evidence.

Community support is growing to support change. This year more rural residents and business owners spoke out about the negative impacts of duck shooting. More letters were sent to MPs with more requests for meetings and invitations to visit homes by the wetlands (not heeded by labor or liberal MPs). Reports were received by RVOTDS from people adversely affected from all areas of the state. Sunraysia residents concerned for safety, were successful in having one wetland closed.

Financially, the duck shooting debate is all but shot down. Recent ATO data showed 5 of the 10 lowest income postcodes in the country are in rural Victoria including around “duck shooting’ towns like Donald and Kerang where duck shooting seems to have brought nil benefit to the economy.

Meanwhile Kakadu claimed the top tourism award with visitors citing wildlife, aboriginal culture and landscapes as the main attractions. Tourism Research Australia reported record participation in visits to national parks, aboriginal culture sites and bushwalking - visits our stunning rural wetland areas are missing out on due to shooting preventing development.

With the shooting season over, residents can enjoy our beautiful backyards and popular activities like bushwalking and kayaking. Children have reprieve from being exposed to men in soldier gear camped nearby, constant gunfire shattering the peace and maimed and dead birds falling from the sky.

The legacy of the season's bird killing will linger, as it always does, with bird body parts, broken beer bottles and ammunition cartridges littering the wetland shores for months to come and the heartbreaking absence of our precious native waterbirds whose numbers were already struggling.

The question lingers, as it always does, why our right to a peaceful and safe environment for our families, love of our wildlife, the right to develop the economic benefits which our nature assets afford us, comes second to the alleged rights of a minority of duck shooters to enjoy their seasonal recreation.

Shooters groups are already agitating for an early announcement of a 2019 season, seemingly unaware of the impact their activities bring to rural residents or everyone's birdlife.

We hope, If decentralization is on the political agenda that a safe and prosperous environment is what government will want to offer newcomers to our rural areas. What is happening across Victoria with duck shooting, is not that.

Recreational duck shooting is banned in QLD, NSW. WA and ACT for reasons of cruelty, public safety and a preference for ecotourism. In Victoria, less than 0.4% of the population shoot birds (GMA license statistics) while over 87% want the activity banned (Morgan poll).

Picture Australian Wood Duck pair, unique to Australia, pair for life, found amongst many strewn around Cairn Curran Reservoir by children.

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